Politics Arizona election audit draws Republican tourists
The Phoniest Argument About Election Security
The Arizona audit will only undermine faith in democracy.“We are here to make sure Arizona voters can have faith and confidence that elections conducted in this state and this county have integrity,” Ken Bennett, a former Arizona secretary of state working for the state Senate on the audit, said in April. “We’re going to be able to tell everyone in Arizona in a few weeks that they can have complete trust in their elections—or we have some areas that can be improved.
The hottest new destination for political tourists this summer is a barren and crumbling arena surrounded by an empty parking lot, where off-duty law enforcement officials providing security lounge under a flimsy plastic tent to escape the punishing sun and triple-digit heat radiating off the cracked asphalt.
Inside Phoenix Memorial Coliseum, a parade of Republican legislators from across the nation have come to observe an audit of the more than 2.1 million votes cast last year in Maricopa County, an examination ordered by the Republican-controlled Arizona state Senate.
Opinion: The latest political cartoons
On Friday, Arizona legislators hosted colleagues from Georgia, Utah, Michigan, Washington and Oklahoma. Legislators from Pennsylvania, Alaska, Nevada and Virginia have already stopped in town to observe. A team of Wisconsin legislators will visit Saturday.
"They just want to see the audit and see what we're doing, how we're doing it, what procedures we're using. They want to understand it, what the process is," said Randy Pullen, a former Arizona Republican Party chairman who is acting as a spokesman for the audit team. "Everybody who's seen the process has been pretty surprised about how totally secure it is."
The legislators watch volunteers clad in bright-colored T-shirts who sit before makeshift lazy Susans atop round card tables. Those in red, blue and green shirts are tabulating votes cast for president from a stack of ballots that whirl between them. Those in white and gray are inspecting the ballots themselves for signs that they have been shipped in from overseas - different conspiracy theories, none with a shred of evidence backing them up, hold different countries accountable for the fanciful allegations of widespread fraud.
Email dump shows Arizona Senate president touting 'personal call' from Trump on election fraud claims
More than 500 emails related to Arizona Senate President Karen Fann's correspondence about the audit of the 2020 election in Maricopa County were released on Friday. They showed the Republican talking about being in touch with former President Donald Trump and his attorney Rudy Giuliani in the months leading up to the review. © Provided by Washington Examiner FILE - In this May 26, 2020, file photo, Arizona Senate President Karen Fann, R-Prescott, speaks to the media in Phoenix. A budget deal struck between Republican leader Fann and Rep. Rusty Bowers, R-Mesa, and Gov. Doug Ducey includes implementing a flat 2.
The so-called audit is being overseen by Cyber Ninjas, a Florida-based cyber security company that has never audited an election before. Election administration experts, Democratic elected officials and the Republican Board of Supervisors in Maricopa County have objected to what they call a sham process marred by murkiness, procedural errors and security lapses that will cast a pall on whatever report eventually comes out.
Even some of the Arizona senators who initially backed the audit are rethinking their votes. State Sen. Paul Boyer (R) criticized the partisan nature of an audit team that has actively sought help recruiting volunteers from Republican party organizations throughout the state.
"By definition, an auditor is independent. And they're not independent," Boyer said in an interview with The Hill last month. "It makes me embarrassed to be a state senator at this point."
OAN correspondent who is covering the Arizona election audit has been aiding the effort since at least December, documents show
The Trump-approved network has also been given primary access to livestream the much-maligned audit.Audit-related documents requested and published by The Center for Public Integrity and watchdog We Are Oversight reveal that Christina Bobb, host of "Weekly Briefing" on OAN was supplying Arizona Senate President Karen Fann with witness declarations, statements, and expert testimony in early December to help bolster the Republican-led effort to undermine election results in Maricopa County, where President Joe Biden beat former President Donald Trump by 45,000 votes.
In spite of the objections, Arizona's Republican senators have hosted regular delegations of legislators from other states. Some of those legislators are backing audits of elections President Biden won in 2020, raising concerns that Republicans will continue to embrace former President Trump's big lie that the election was marred by widespread fraud and abuse despite evidence to the contrary.
"This isn't about a fringe part of their party. It's just become their party," said Heather Williams, executive director of the Democratic Legislative Campaign Committee. "It has truly become a part of their agenda."
Video: GOP governors push voting restrictions after touting their states' elections (The Washington Post)
Trump has enthusiastically cheered on the Arizona audit, citing it as a model for other states. After three Pennsylvania Republicans visited Phoenix last week, Trump issued a statement through his political action committee urging Pennsylvania Senate President Jake Corman (R) to conduct "a full Forensic Audit [sic.]"
GOP Election Analyst 'Aghast' at Arizona Audit as State Senator Threatens U.S. Attorney General
A Republican analyst, who voted for Trump, suggested the GOP-backed audit would present its "new record" as the "truth."The audit of Maricopa County's 2.1 million ballots has been widely criticized, including by a number of Republicans. Arizona's Republican state Senate President Karen Fann and fellow state GOP lawmakers pushed forward the audit based on former President Donald Trump's baseless claims that the 2020 election was "rigged" or "stolen" by President Joe Biden and the Democrats.
"The people of Pennsylvania and America deserve to know the truth. If the Pennsylvania Senate leadership doesn't act, there is no way they will ever get re-elected!" Trump wrote.
Biden won Pennsylvania by more than 70,000 votes in 2020, a bigger margin of victory than the 44,000 votes by which Trump won in 2016.
Arizona Republicans have offered varying answers about what they expect to come from the audit. State Senate President Karen Fann (R) has said she does not expect the audit to overturn President Biden's 10,000-vote win in Arizona last year - but at the same timethat the audit is part of the Senate's effort "pushing to prove any fraud."
The Republicans who are visiting Arizona say their mission is to learn from the audit, and to bring those lessons back to their states. In a letter requesting permission to make the trip, Wisconsin state Rep. Janel Brandtjen (R) said she hoped to learn lessons she could bring back to her state.
"The point of the trip is to observe a large-scale recounting process using volunteers and contracted vendors to determine ballot integrity and possible reconstruction of the Dominion machine programming," Brandtjen wrote to Assembly Speaker Robin Vos (R). "I believe such a large-scale recount may prove insightful as it was for members of the Pennsylvania and Georgia legislature have also seen this process."
Arizona audit of Maricopa County ballots has attracted out-of-state visitors. Here's the list
A growing number of Republican legislators from around the U.S. are making a sort of pilgrimage to Phoenix's Veterans Memorial Coliseum this summer.An opportunity to get publicity from right-wing media outlets that have followed the effort, some visitors say it is also a chance to glimpse a process they would like to replicate in their home states after pushing unsuccessfully to overturn the results of last year’s election.
Vos approved the trip, though two of the six legislators initially scheduled to travel to Arizona told The Hill they had other commitments that would keep them in Wisconsin.
One who will attend, state Rep. Dave Murphy (R), said he wanted to observe methods of investigating the results of the 2020 elections.
"My duty as a legislator is to ensure Wisconsin laws are the best possible to provide for fair and transparent elections. I've heard from tens of thousands of people that they have lost faith in our elections," he told The Hill in an email. "It's critical that we do everything possible to restore the public's faith in the electoral process."
President Biden carried Wisconsin by 20,682 votes in November, a margin only slightly smaller than the 22,748 votes by which Trump won the state in 2016. Biden won more votes in Wisconsin than any presidential candidate other than Barack Obama in 2008.
Several of the political tourists who have tramped through the coliseum also attended Trump's Stop the Steal rally outside the White House on Jan. 6, and were later present at the attack on the Capitol later that day.
Virginia Sen. Amanda Chase (R), Pennsylvania Sen. Doug Mastriano (R), Georgia Rep. Vernon Jones (R), Alaska Rep. David Eastman (R) and Colorado Rep. Ron Hanks (R), all of whom were present at the rally and all but one of whom were photographed at or said later they marched to the Capitol, have toured the Arizona audit.
Two others who traveled to Washington for the Jan. 6 rally that led to the insurrection have played a more hands-on role in the Arizona audit. State Rep. Mark Finchem (R), who is running for secretary of state, has become a regular spokesman on behalf of the audit, appearing regularly on far-right networks like OANN and Newsmax. Former state Rep. Anthony Kern (R), who lost his bid for reelection in November, has been photographed participating in the audit himself. Bothand were photographed at the Capitol in the midst of the Trump-fueled riot.
The audit, and the prospect that other states will mirror Arizona's post-election actions, is worrying to Democrats who see an ongoing effort to undermine the integrity of Biden's victory in the name of restoring faith in the electoral process that Republicans themselves have spent months denigrating.
"There is an honest and true threat to our democracy and it is happening now inside our state houses," Williams said. "The insurrection isn't over. It wasn't a one time event. It's still very real and very present."
Pennsylvania poised to begin Arizona-style election audit with subpoena power .
Pennsylvania appears to be on the precipice of initiating an Arizona-style audit of the 2020 election. © Provided by Washington Examiner State Sen. David Argall, who heads a committee that oversees elections, told local news outlets he favors a forensic audit of the contest that state and federal officials insist was secure. The Republican, under pressure by former President Donald Trump to take action, told the Capital-Star the audit is now a “very real possibility." The report said he is considering subpoenas for ballot information and which jurisdictions to send them.